“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” â€“Â Harriet Van Horne
When it comes to a romantic summer night’s dinner, I feel the emphasis should be on fab without the fuss.Â My chermoula marinated lamb skewers cooked on hot coals and served with couscous salad, hummus, tzatziki and honey roast figs encompass just that.
AndÂ serving up a delectable lovers meal that you can eat with your hands just adds to the sensual pleasure of both the food and the occasion.
With this in mind, simple is key, although it still needs to be done with integrity and a little pizazz. Make use of Moroccan or Indian style serving bowls, add garnish in the form of beautiful fresh herbs and edible flowers such as marigolds to transform this dish into something truly magical.
- 1/2 Cucumber grated with the excess juice squeezed off
- 1 Handful chopped mint
- 2 Cups Greek yoghurt
- Juice of one lemon
- Pinch of sugar or dash of honey
- 3 Cloves garlic finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together and place in serving bowl.
- One tin chickpeas drained and rinsed well under cool water
- 2 tbs Tahini paste
- Juice of 1-2 lemons (add slowly and check the flavor as you go)
- 5ml Good quality smoked paprika
- Pinch of sumac
- 3 Cloves garlic finely chopped
Blend together until a smooth paste is formed. Add more water if itâ€™s too thick.
Lamb/beef/chicken or fish kebabs
Soak the skewers in water to prevent them from burning, and then thread them with layers of meat, fig, apricot, and pepper or red onion. Cover with chermoula paste and leave to marinate for at least an hour.
Cook on medium to high coals, and baste throughout the cooking process.
Place 1 1/2 cupsÂ couscous in a metal bowl, pour over 1 1/2 cups boiling stock or water that has a squeeze of lemon juice added, stir and cover with cling film.
After leaving it to stand for about half an hour you can fluff it with a fork to loosen the grains.
At this stage you can add any flavor you desire. I love toasted nuts and seeds, such as almonds, pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I also add a large handful each of chopped mint, coriander and parsley, and finally, a drizzle of olive oil.
Chermoula spice paste
Chermoula is one of North Africaâ€™s signature spices. It is most commonly used as a marinate for fish, but I find it far more versatile than that. You can flavor couscous with it or use it over chicken, pork, shellfish or lamb.
The dominant flavors are garlic, cumin, paprika, coriander, lemon and chili, which you can adjust according to your taste. It is important to use a good quality smoked paprika, but be careful to only add a little at a time, as the flavor is very distinctive.
- 8 tbs Cumin seeds, lightly roasted and finely ground
- 4 tbs Coriander seeds, lightly roasted and finely ground
- 5 tbs Sweet paprika
- 4 tbs Ground ginger
- 2 Heads garlic, roughly chopped
- 5-7 Whole bullet chilies, seeded, scraped and roughly chopped
- Juice of 4 lemons
- 400ml Olive oil
- 2 tsp Sea salt
- 2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
Place all the ingredients together in a food processor and blend until the garlic and chilies are ground to a paste.Â Place in an airtight jar and cover with olive oil.Â It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Top up with oil each time you use it.
Now all that’s left to do is serve and enjoy.